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Apple uses skeuomorphism, but it's not because they are idiots.

Sys­tem Me­ss­age: ERRO­R/3 (<s­­tri­n­­g>, li­­ne 1)

Do­cu­ment or sec­tion may not be­gin wi­th a tran­si­tio­n.


Eve­ry day the­re is a new post de­cr­ying Apple's tas­te­le­ss use of skeuo­mor­phism (you kno­w, making cal­cu­la­tor pro­gra­ms look like cal­cu­la­tors and no­te-­taking apps look like note­pa­d­s?).

I to­ta­lly agree that skeuo­mor­phic apps are ugly and stu­pi­d. I said that in 2-­thou­san­d-­freakin­g-­four. But just looking at the la­test abo­mi­na­tion (it see­ms to be a sound re­cor­der that looks like a ree-­to­-­ree­l, of all things) and snee­ring is wor­se, be­cau­se that means you do­n't ha­ve any ideas of whe­re de­sign co­mes fro­m, and I say this being a per­son wi­th as mu­ch tas­te as a wa­l­rus.

De­sign co­mes from peo­ple. The­re is a gran­der de­sign be­hind that spe­ci­fic de­sig­n, whi­ch you could ca­ll a gui­de­li­ne, or a phi­lo­so­ph­y, or in so­me ca­ses a zei­tgeis­t. For 50 year­s, the­re has exis­ted a con­sen­sus about clean­li­ness of de­sign being a good thin­g. It started in so­me spe­ci­fic ni­ches whi­le others went in other di­rec­tions (car fin­s!) and la­ter ea­ch area of de­sign has mo­ve­d, like a pen­du­lu­m, to­war­ds clean­li­ness or "s­pe­cial­ness".

On­ce you go "clean", and eve­r­yo­ne goes "clean" the­re is ve­ry li­ttle you can do to make your pro­duct dis­tinc­ti­ve, and a ten­sion is created to make it le­ss clean and mo­re "s­pe­cia­l".

Google's en­try pa­ge us­ed to be ab­so­lu­te­ly clean. A pla­ce to en­ter tex­t, and two bu­tton­s. Now it has a me­nu wi­th 11+ ite­ms, 3 bu­tton­s, and an ico­n. Apple's OS9 was as­ce­ti­c, and now OSX is a sea of boun­cy co­lor­ful things shou­ting at you.

The skeuo­mor­phism and other in­di­ca­tions of over­de­sig­n, of com­pli­ca­tio­n, in apple's apps is not unin­ten­tio­na­l, it's an in­ten­tio­nal attempt at making the appli­ca­tions spe­cia­l, appea­lin­g, and dis­tinc­ti­ve. It is ugly and aw­fu­l, but it is so in­ten­tio­na­lly, be­cau­se the ve­ry con­cep­ts of ugli­ness and aw­ful­ness are just a va­gue con­sen­sus among the user­s, and Apple su­re­ly felt con­fi­den­ce that user­s, ac­cos­tu­med to Apple's ro­le as kings of tas­te, would chan­ge their tas­te to fi­t. And as far as I can see that is exac­tly what has ha­ppe­ne­d.

Users are not the ones com­plai­ning about Apple's de­sign sty­le, other de­sig­ners are com­plai­nin­g. That sig­nal­s, to me, a dis­con­nect be­tween the tas­te of de­sig­ners and the tas­te of user­s. And ho­nes­tl­y, the tas­te of de­sig­ners is on­ly of va­gue aca­de­mic in­te­rest to com­pa­nies tr­ying to se­ll pro­duc­t.

Apple's har­dwa­re sta­ys mi­ni­ma­lis­tic be­cau­se they ha­ve suc­ce­ss­fu­lly bran­ded it. If you see a squa­rish slab of bla­ck gla­ss wi­th a bu­tto­n, you thi­nk iPad or iPho­ne de­pen­ding on si­ze, not "ge­ne­ric mi­ni­ma­lis­tic tou­ch de­vi­ce". On so­ftwa­re, that did not wo­rk. The­re was no­thing in­te­res­ting or in­no­va­ti­ve, or dis­tinc­ti­ve in mi­ni­ma­lis­tic de­sign for appli­ca­tion­s.

So they started wi­th co­lor­ful gu­m­drop­s, mo­ved on­to brus­hed me­ta­l, and then in­to fake sti­tched lea­the­r, be­cau­se they are tr­ying to find so­me­thing that can be as suc­ce­ss­fu­lly and po­wer­fu­lly bran­ded as "sil­ve­ry slim we­dge wi­th bla­ck ke­ys" is no­w.

De­sig­ners appa­ren­tly seem to be­lie­ve the­re is cer­tain spe­ci­fic "clean­li­ness" that is the ha­ll­ma­rk of "good" de­sig­n, and that ri­pped pa­per and other skeuo­mor­phic affec­ta­tions are sig­ns of bad tas­te. That is si­lly and ahis­to­ri­c. Clean­li­ness is just a fas­hio­n, ree­l-­to­-­reel di­gi­tal re­cor­ders are an attempt at crea­ting a tas­te. It's am­bi­tious, and res­pec­ta­ble.

On the other han­d, it is ugly as he­ll.


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